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don’t lose your way in vr

Payments and Authentication in Virtual Reality

Virtual reality is something you might remember from older science fiction films: people in bulky headsets, wearing gloves and reaching for things only they can see - said things rendered in, by today's standards, laughably poor and simple graphics.


How Gaming Revived Virtual Reality

Today it's another matter altogether. With modern visual effects and graphics boasting the attribute of "photorealistic", virtual reality is poised to revolutionize our daily lives. The spark was reignited in 2012 when VR - relegated to obscurity more than a decade before - staged its videogame industry comeback.

The name most frequently mentioned was Oculus, a company whose VR headset was making so many waves that Facebook saw its potential and acquired it in 2014 for $3 billion. And when a company at the forefront of technological developments makes that kind of a purchase, chances are it is not just a trend incoming but an upheaval as well.

Oculus was founded in 2012 in California and specializes in VR hardware and software. Their most famous product, the Oculus Rift VR headset, was so popular it raised $2.4 million on Kickstarter. After being acquired by Facebook in 2014, Oculus has been focusing on developing telepresence products and has also partnered with Samsung for its Samsung Gear VR for Galaxy smartphones. 


But What is it Really? 

So what is "virtual reality"? Well, the idea of immersing yourself in artificial three-dimensional environments is more than a century old. There is an old invention called "stereoscope" that presents an almost identical image to each eye and uses your brain's ability to both combine them and notice their discrepancies to create the illusion of depth - in short, making you believe you are looking at one 3D image instead of two 2D ones

Those early devices were bulky and crude but work was persistently being done to refine and advance the stereoscope, paving the way to today's headsets. But there is a big step between two static images creating the illusion of a third and technology for creating a virtual environment in which you can move your head - or even your entire body - around and that makes you believe it's real even though you know it cannot be. This is called "presence" and anyone who ever put on a VR headset and refused to step off the ledge of a computer-generated building knows the feeling.


early vr headsets

Source: Colocation America

The Smartphone’s Love of VR

However, today's VR revival almost didn't come to pass. VR was hailed as one of the "next big things" in the 1990s, especially with regards to video game and entertainment industries, but technological limitations consistently prevented it from achieving a true "big thing" status and VR soon became relegated to the status of a fad. It would have remained there if it hadn't been for the smartphone.

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Source: Daily Mail

smartphone incorporates all those things necessary for functional VR: a high-resolution display that presents the user with eye-popping 3D graphics and a mobile processor that can handle running them, as well as gyroscopes and accelerometers that can track the device's movement and position. 


Oculus Rift Shifts the VR World

In 2012, John Carmack, a giant of the video game industry in the 1990s, and Palmer Luckey, a 19-year old VR enthusiast, cobbled together a prototype VR headset running Carmack's cult video game "Doom" and presented it at the E3 videogame trade show. It was arguably the biggest sensation of the event and this prototype would become the Oculus Rift, the reason for Facebook to cash out $3 billion. 

The competition was fast and intense, with HTC and Playstation joining the fray and various start-ups popping up to take advantage of this new gold rush.

Thus, 2018 saw the advent of standalone headsets which don't require a computer or a smartphone to operate. And here and now, in 2020, it is precisely these stand-alone headsets that will lead the next phase of VR. 

Cheaper and more accessible than tethered versions while still providing deeply immersive and high-resolution virtual environments, they are poised to take VR beyond games and interactive entertainment. The options currently researched and in development are many: from psychological treatment to education and remote office work.


VR in the Payments Industry

With all that in mind, the effects of VR on the payments industry can be varied and numerous. Mastercard and Swarovski launched a virtual reality shopping experience in 2017 and at the very start of 2020, the card company unveiled an app that allows their cardholders to explore the benefits of Mastercard in virtual reality. Via the smartphone app the cardholder can explore three interactive areas representing Mastercard's benefits.

 The photorealistic environments react to device's movements and are designed in such a way as to represent the comfort provided by the benefits.

For example, the Everyday Value benefits can be found within a stylish home, while Peace of Mind is represented by a wonderful spa. Tapping on various items provides the cardholder with information on what they offer and how they can be accessed.

Apple's QuickLook technology allows iPhone and iPad users to see a VR representation of a product they are considering buying from a retailer. This representation can be of anything from how a vase might look full of flowers to what a couch might look like in your living room, and QuickLook also allows you to immediately purchase viewed items using Apple Pay.

Other companies also worked on offering similar AR shopping experience. Apps were developed by AliBaba Group for virtual in store shopping and also by IKEA - The IKEA Place app, which lets you "virtually ‘place’ furnishings in your space."

Some brands took their AR marketing experience to Instagram.

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Source: Chatelaine

Kylie Jenner and Dior used Instagram filter options for people to tryout their makeup and potentially buy it.

The aim of VR in payments is to ultimately perform transactions with hand or head gestures. There are, of course, security concerns, since gestures are currently hard to authenticate, but solutions are forthcoming and fast. TIS, a Tokyo-based IT company, developed BioSig-ID, a unique authentication system for customer's gesture patterns that provides 99% protection against imposters and may become a standard solution for seamless VR payments

Biometric Signature ID (BSI) has released statistics for the accounts that deployed its biometric solution to protect and authenticate the identities of 415,000 users, showing significantly reduced manual password resets, presumably indicating productivity improvements and reduced costs.

Jeff Maynard, CEO and founder of Biometric Signature ID commented on the results: “We are very excited about these latest outstanding statistics. With these astonishing low rates of help-desk calls, we are saving our clients significant time and costs. Perhaps the biggest savings are from the positive user experiences and increased productivity. Surveys with first-time users confirmed a 98 percent positive experience with 48 percent finding use of BioSig-ID was ‘Entertaining'.” 

That being said, we are still waiting for the proverbial "iPhone of VR" - something that will combine technology and design into a highly desirable form. It may even come from Apple itself, as the tech giant is also reportedly hard at work on a VR headset. Whoever does finally reach that milestone will no doubt take charge of the VR revolution in payments and in general.